Anti-illegal mining ops net 140 plus suspects, excavators and tipper trucks

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The close to three thousand seven hundred SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel detached to assist police curbing illicit and illegal mining activities are proving their worth as SA Police Service (SAPS) communicators report on successes nationally.

Recent “disruptive” operations in three provinces saw more than 140 suspects arrested on charges relating to illegal mining and being in South Africa without the necessary documentation, the SAPS reported.

The SANDF deployment is in terms of the standing Operation Prosper which sees military elements ranging from foot soldiers through to aircraft and SA Navy (SAN) boats form part of safety and security operations co-ordinated by NATJOINTS (National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure).

The presence of sophisticated and expensive illegal mining activities was exposed through the confiscation of tipper trucks – in one instance seemingly loaded with ore-bearing material – and excavators as well as the more standard picks, shovels and pendukas (hand or generator powered tumblers used to break down material for easier access to either ore or nuggets).

Reporting on operations in Limpopo’s Capricorn and Sekhukhune districts last week, SAPS has it a “white TATA tipper” as well as two shovels, a pick and other mining equipment were confiscated from an illegal sand mining site.

The Sekhukhune operation yielded “two loads of tipper truck stockpiles” said to be “thousands of Rand worth of chrome abandoned at [an] illegal mining site”.

Wider Limpopo was targeted by a number of further separate operations which saw 18 suspects arrested and equipment including an excavator and three tipper trucks confiscated. This round of raids also saw police and soldiers confiscate “thousands of Rands worth of cigarettes and dagga as well as [an] undisclosed amount of cash”.

As with other anti-illicit mining operations, police are supported by elements of the SA Army Light Modern Brigade (LMB), the unit activated in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa making public the employment of soldiers to curtail illegal mining nationally.

Illegal mining sites in Hebron and Rustenburg were boosted by soldiers supporting a number of police units, including the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), better known as the Hawks; National Intervention Unit (NIU); Special Task Force (STF); Tactical Response Team (TRT); Public Order Police (POP); Air Wing; Mounted Unit; Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC); K9; Visible Policing; and Mine Security.

The Hebron raid yielded gold-bearing material and mining equipment and 15 arrests with 74 suspects arrested at Kroondal, Rustenburg. Seventy-one face charges in connection with illegal immigration with the remaining three to appear in court on charges relating to illegal mining operations.

Kagiso on Gauteng’s West Rand was the final site called on during last week’s reported anti-illicit mining operations. Here, as in Limpopo and North West, police and soldiers teamed up, arresting 34 suspected illegal immigrants, and confiscating pendukas, generators and “other tools of the trade”.

Also last week, soldiers deployed on the border protection tasking Operation Corona called in their police colleagues following receipt of illegal trafficking and counterfeit goods smuggling intelligence. Soldiers, SAPS K-9 and what the Limpopo SAPS Provincial Commissioner’s Office calls “border policing teams” confiscated nine inflatable boats on the South African bank of the Limpopo River, left behind as unknown number of suspects fled on foot.